Money Moves

Confidence boost

by Grace Chan

Dickson Wong
head of Zurich Academy Distribution Development
Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong)
Photo: Edde Ngan

Financial services multinational to increase its sales force by 1,000

Despite the vagaries of the economic climate, Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong) is set to hire up to 1,000 agents by the end of this year.

With a view to meeting its aggressive recruitment targets, the company plans to invest on a significant advertising and marketing budget with an aim to strengthen brand awareness and bolster the company's image.

"People in Hong Kong are increasingly conscious of their long-term financial needs since the implementation of the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) scheme in 2000," says Dickson Wong, head of Zurich Academy Distribution Development, Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong). "Over the past 10 years, the local insurance market has been experiencing significant growth owing to the shift from traditional insurance products towards investment-linked ones, which also brings along exciting career opportunities."

Apart from experienced financial advisers, the company is making it a priority to hire fresh graduates who are passionate about developing a long-term career in the industry. Through a well-structured training programme designed by its New Advisor Development Centre, which was established in 2004, the company will equip new recruits with the necessary professional knowledge and skills.

Given new recruits possess the basic academic requirements and hold the necessary professional licences, Mr Wong believes success in such a fast-paced insurance business requires a wide variety of expertise including high-level communication skills, product and industry knowledge as well as excellent customer service.

"Most importantly, they should commit themselves to professional integrity and be diligent," he remarks.

Practical approach

To help newcomers put their best foot forward, Zurich immerses them in a systematic five-month initial training programme, which combines theoretical and practical knowledge as well as personalised development.

The first phase of training begins with preparation for qualification examinations, followed by information and practical skills training on financial planning, selling and client servicing techniques. "Equally important is to help new advisers build a positive attitude and good work practices along with setting clear career objectives," Mr Wong notes.

Role-playing exercises and field practise take place during the second month of training, with new advisers joining their line managers to meet customers. Through observation and real-life practice, newcomers will be able to hone their interpersonal communication skills and develop a keen service mindset.

"Line managers will offer personalised coaching to the new recruits by pointing out their strengths and areas for improvement before they start meeting customers alone," Mr Wong says. "By taking this interactive approach, our new advisers are expected to have established successful activity patterns, enhanced their professional competence and built self-confidence."

For a stretch of 90 days, a "Special Development For You" programme assists new advisers in setting up their business. They will be rewarded gifts when meeting a specific monthly business target. "Although they are just Zurich-branded symbolic gifts like a pen or a computer mouse, we aim to engage new recruits with our corporate culture and foster loyalty," Mr Wong explains.

Special product initiatives are frequently arranged for new advisers to help open the door to new potential clients. "We also assist them in staging road shows at shopping malls as a channel to maximise their opportunity in expanding their client network," he adds.

Full support

By recognising the importance of talent management, Zurich in 2006 set up its Zurich Academy, which now offers an array of training programmes for existing advisers to keep them abreast of the latest industry knowledge and skills. Accomplishments in manpower training and development have brought the company a "Manpower Developer 1st" award by the Employees Retraining Board.

Besides, "Zurich Academy—Catch the Coaching Habit", a training programme tailored for managers was awarded with an "Award for Excellence in Training 2009" by the Hong Kong Management Association.

For those looking to climb the corporate ladder, career progression is linked to personal aspirations, personality and capabilities. Advisers who prove competent in strong leadership can choose a management path, beginning as an assistant branch manager and eventually moving up to the regional manager level. Tailored training programmes are in place for prospective managers to strengthen their management skills.

For entrepreneurial advisers, the company offers a specialist career route for those progressing from wealth planners to the business development managerial level. Also available is a comprehensive range of centralised recruitment support. Every year, Zurich stages four large-scale recruitment seminars to facilitate the development of its agency force. The company's advisers also participate in career expos and initiate individual recruitment activities to attract the best and brightest talent in town.

"We count on our talent to deliver to our customers when it matters," Mr Wong concludes. "At the end of the day, people remain our best asset."

Solid foundation

  • Well-structured training helps new advisers kick off their careers
  • Small gifts and product initiatives increase advisers' engagement level
  • Ongoing learning helps advisers excel

Taken from Career Times 2 July 2010, A2

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